On 31st of March 2020, EU Athletes Executive Board held an online emergency meeting in order to discuss latest developments related to the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on sport and the athletes. In the time of a global public health crisis, many of player associations and players themselves have demonstrated an exemplary leadership, dedication and solidarity related to this unprecedented situation.
EU Athletes and its members are committed to making sure that professional and elite level sport in Europe remains a viable and sustainable business in the long-term. During the discussion, Board members exchanged about the way that clubs, leagues and federations in different sports and countries are dealing with the current situation. It was agreed that in order to find adequate short and long-term solutions to various challenges facing sport sector, there is a need to prioritize dialogue and stakeholder engagement.
‘Today more than ever, athletes need to be a part of the solution. That is why we call for sport organizations to commit to the active engagement with the athlete and player associations about sport’s response to the current crisis.’ said Paulina Tomczyk, the General Secretary of EU Athletes. ‘This way it can be assured that the fundamental athletes’ rights are respected through a proper decision making process.’
Read the full statement here.
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On the 29th of January EU Athletes Board members gathered at the FIFPro offices in Amsterdam for the first Board meeting of 2020. The topics tackled included the priorities and future actions of EU Athletes, the results of the PROtect Integrity Erasmus+ project and an update on the current and upcoming projects. Moreover, the future development of European sport policies has been discussed.
We are also glad to welcome two new members from 2020, the Polish Basketball Players Labour Union and the Lithuanian National Elite Athletes Association.
On the 28th of January the kick-off meeting of PROLead, the new 3-years project funded by the Erasmus+ Program, took place in Amsterdam. PROLead aims to improve dual career opportunities for professional athletes by providing tailored leadership training for current and retired athletes.
EU Athletes is responsible to coordinate the 9 partners taking part into the project, which are: Professional Players Federation (PPF), Gaelic Players Association (GPA) Rugby Players Ireland (RPI), Ube Union Basketteurs d’Europe (UBE), The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), Fédération Nationale des Associations et Syndicats de Sportifs (FNASS), Asociación de Jugadores y Jugadoras de Voleibol (AJJV), Asociacion de Jugadores de Futbol Sala (AJFS), Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (DSHS).
Running for 3 years, until December 2022, the project is structured in three main phases:
- The review of current leadership education for athletes across Europe and identify good practices for teaching leadership to players;
- The design and delivery of a European-wide one-year leadership education course for player association staff and volunteers;
- The design and delivery of 7 national leadership programs for athletes in 6 different countries.
Innovation is an important aspect that differentiates the program, as the project is athlete led, specifically tailored for their needs and focused on soft skills that will be useful on on and off the pitch. The expected outcome of PROLead is to help athletes to get a satisfying job after the professional sport careers, as well as strengthen the relationship between players and their associations, which can benefit also by reinforcing their network with other players associations around Europe.
The kick-off meeting gathered all the partners of the project to discuss and outline their roles, responsibilities and strategies in order to successfully carry out the project.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the World of Sport has taken place from 20th to 22nd of January in Geneva, Switzerland. The report ‘Decent work in the world of sport’ was a basis for discussions between the employers (IOE), workers (World Players Association and its affiliates) and the governements. Additionally, sport bodies including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), World Rugby and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) have joined the disucssion about how the ILO labour standards apply to the work of athletes.
Athletes are workers and they need to have their fundamental rights protected. This is a key message from the report that includes references to key research from EU Athletes as well as FIFPro, FICA and International Rugby Players, giving an insignt into decent work challenges faced by athletes in different sports around the globe. The main findings include that professional athletes often face issues such as infufficient representation, disguised employment, discrimination, harassement, abuse, late payement of wages and unenforcable contracts as well as serious occupational health and safety risks as well as lack of effective remedy.
The report also acknowledges Universal Declaration of Players Rights (UDPR) adopted by World Players Association and its affiliates as a tool to address the labour and human rights challenges facing athletes. A core pillar of the UDPR is dedicated to labour rights which includes; the right to work, the right to organize and collectively bargain, the right to share in the economic activity of sport, the right to decent fair and just conditions and the right to physical health, mental health and social wellbeing.
Our General Secretary Paulina Tomczyk participated in the meeting as a worker representative alonglisde EU Athletes members Paul Flynn (GPA) and Dejan Stefanovic (SSS) and a number of World Players Association affiliates, with FIFPro General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman leading the delegation. ‘Protecting athletes’ rights as people and workers is the main mission of EU Athletes. The challenges that the players face when it comes to decent work demands actions at national, regional and international level and it is very promissing that the ILO decided to support a dialogue dealing with this important topic.’ she said after the meeting.
After three days of work, the Forum adopted Points of Consensus which will be taken under consideration preparing the further work and possible follow up from the social partners, governements, and other stakeholders when it comes to assuring decent work for athletes.
Following the developments related to the modification of the Olympic Charter’s Bye-law 3 to Rule 40 (Rule 40) and inquiries about its incompatibility with the European Union (EU) law, we would like to underline our opposition to the above-mentioned rule, emphasize our support for the European Commission for protecting athletes’ rights against the abuse and express an openness to a dialogue and negotiations on this matter.
Athletes that we represent are among those that are obliged to comply with Rule 40 in order to compete at the Olympic Games. Following the German Bundeskartellamt ruling earlier this year, it is increasingly clear the Olympic Rule 40 is in breach of the EU competition law. Despite the recent changes, Rule 40 remains unduly restrictive of athletes’ economic rights and their commercial opportunities.
We are strongly of the opinion that Rule 40’s continued excessive restrictions are a result of the flawed decision-making process within the Olympic movement. Independent athlete associations, who do not support Rule 40, were excluded from the process. Mere consultation of athlete commissions, which are a part of the Olympic movement themselves, is unacceptable when it comes to rules that affect all athletes participating at the Olympic Games. By choosing to ignore independent athlete associations, the IOC’s approach is not compatible with the principles of good governance and the fundamental right of freedom of representation.
While the IOC indicates that the athletes should negotiate directly with their National Olympic Committees (NOCs), it is apparent to EU Athletes, and probably the European Commission, that it is Rule 40 itself that is under question as a source of infringement of athletes’ rights. IOC, as the leader of the Olympic Movement and organizer of the Olympic Games, must assure that the athletes’ rights are respected in this context. At the same time, the European Commission has a responsibility to help protect the economic rights of European athletes and is uniquely placed to do so by ensuring that sport organizations comply with EU competition law. It is unacceptable for sport organisations to abuse their dominant positions to pursue their own commercial interests to the detriment of the rights of athletes.
From our side, EU Athletes is committed to advancing the rights of the athletes in Europe and is committed to discussion and negotiation in order to reach a long-term solution that is compatible with the EU law and fundamental rights as well as the interests of the stakeholders.